Story at a glance

  • Background checks hit record highs in June, according to FBI data.
  • Interest in owning firearms tends to peak during periods of instability.

Background checks, a measurement often used to gauge gun sales, have jumped to historic highs over June, according to reporting by the Associated Press (AP)

The FBI released numbers on Wednesday that show about 3.9 million background checks were conducted over the past month. This is reportedly the largest increase since November 1998 when the background checks system was created to screen candidates who want to own a firearm. 

This new record broke the previous monthly record, seen this past March, when 3.7 million checks were reportedly completed. 

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These spikes come as the COVID-19 pandemic grips the U.S., and new cases begin to rise across the majority of states despite lockdown efforts having broadly been in place since March. 

AP notes that firearm sales tend to increase during presidential election years, when the public becomes concerned over candidates’ rhetoric to restrict their Second Amendment rights. However, 2020 has come with a slew of national crises, from the coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter protests decrying racism and police brutality. 

“Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing. Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety,” Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation was quoted as saying.

Year-over-year data points to a jump in background checks by about 136 percent when comparing June 2019 data, and an estimated 40 percent of June background checks came from first-time buyers. 

Experts fear that between the consistently high data showcasing no fewer than 2.7 million background checks per month beginning in January 2020, this is no longer an anomaly, but a burgeoning trend. 

“I’m extremely concerned about those people who, in this time of uncertainty and fear, have been sold on the gun industry narrative that in uncertain times, when you’re feeling out of control, your possession of a firearm will satisfy that fear,” David Chipman, senior policy director for the Giffords gun control group said.“This can no longer be characterized as a spike. This is a sustained uptick in sales that has continued for an unprecedented amount of months now."

Published on Jul 01, 2020